"I'm at the corner of forty-fourth and eighth," Steve says into the cell phone over the usual Times Square din.
"Excellent," Tony replies distractedly, "Happy'll be there in fifteen minutes. He takes any longer and I'll fire him, promise. --No, Dummy, you dunce, not there; on the fucking joint--" and Tony hangs up.
A sleek, dark blue car with tinted windows pulls up only ten minutes later, but when Steve slides into the passenger's seat, he's surprised to see Tony sitting beside him.
"Happy looked busy," Tony says in response to the surprise that must have flitted across Steve's face. They merge into traffic as Steve says, "Oh. Well, thank you." because he knows that Tony has more important things to do than rescue him from the now-confusing mess of subway lines.
Tony only grins. "Hey, it's the perfect opportunity to test drive my baby," he says, and pats the dashboard affectionately. He shoots a glance at Steve, who bites back the urge to ask that he keep his eyes on the road. "Why were you on the subway, anyway?" Tony asks suddenly.
It's thirty seconds before Steve manages to murmur, "I wanted to see Brooklyn." He shifts in his seat, vaguely uncomfortable in this "car" of Tony's, with its indeterminate number of dials and buttons and switches.
"Still wanna go?" Tony's gaze is back on the road, his tone is neutral, and Steve knows instinctively that if he were to say yes, they'd be in Brooklyn in less than fifteen minutes.
"...Nah," he finally says with an affectionate smile that Tony doesn't see, "not anymore."
Tony shrugs, making a sharp left onto the road leading to Stark Tower: "Well, whenever, let me know, Cap, and I'll hook you up with Happy. There's no need to take the subway, Jesus." He shudders then, like it's the worst thing in the world, and Steve just laughs.
There are moments when the whole team clicks; when every member of the Avengers is on the same page. Seamless cohesion.
Bruce knows these moments, because he watches them unfold on a screen, a few hours after every battle is won.
The other guy's memories are hazy at best, always tinged with blood and available in only four colors, three of which taste like metal. The other guy doesn't remember the cohesion, the teamwork, the seamlessness; he remembers only the exhilaration, the primal roars ripped from his throat at the thrill of the hunt, the cracking skulls, and the instinctual push-pull towards any enemies.
The other guy only remembers the wet heat of fresh blood on his hands.
And again, Bruce finds himself sitting in his lab in Stark Tower, alone, watching "highlights" of the day's victory, and he no longer flinches whenever a grisly green stranger fills the screen.
A sudden rap on the door, and Tony sweeps in without so much as a hello: "Lord of the Rings marathon. Popcorn. Milkshakes. Prime ribs. Right now." and he's gone.
Bruce blinks, and before he can even turn the monitor off, Tony sticks his head back in. "Come on, come on, big fella, haven't got all day -- chop chop!" and he vanishes again.
With a weary sigh that's less weary and more of a sigh, Bruce smiles hesitantly to himself and rises from the chair, leaving the lab behind him with only one backwards glance.
After three days alone in the workshop; after Steve ventures downstairs to convince him to eat; after Tony resolutely ignores him before calmly explaining why he needs to finish this miniature, de-bugged version of Dummy before doing anything else; after Steve's stupid enough to argue; after Tony ignores him; after Steve doesn't shut up; after Tony turns and explodes, spewing anger and self-loathing and saying that this robotic arm could be (will be (must be)) the best thing to happen to modern surgery and can't Steve see that, why can't he see that, why can't he see that Tony needs to do this, needs to offer this part of himself as penance for the deaths he's caused, the people he's killed, the lives he's ruined, goddamnit Steve, I need to do this, can't you see, I need to do this;
After, Steve just looks at him and says, "...Oh, Tony." and there's so much affection in his eyes that Tony barely cares that it feels like his soul is seeping out through his cracks.
After, Steve brings chicken soup down to the workshop, along with the second Harry Potter book, which he begins to read silently from the stool across from Tony's.
Too messed up to find my way back